There has been a lot of debate over the past few days about which lifestreaming service is better: FriendFeed or SocialThing. I think that this debate is irrelevant and both sites miss the point. There are definitely great features that both sites offer including the ability for me to export my feeds via an OPML file but ultimately neither performs what Facebook is working hard to perfect.
Everyday there are thousands of news stories that I filter through and day after day I am not able to consume all of the content that I would like to. This is a problem that more people are facing. One solution to this problem is to find things that are “socially relevant” to us. Facebook has build a filtering system that automatically removes the majority of our newsfeed stories on a daily basis and only displays what their algorithm has determined we want to read.
Watercooler Talk Remains Important
One of the major incentives for consuming content has always been watercooler talk. Not too long ago, watching the previous night’s episode of Green Acres or I Love Lucy was important if you expected to add something relevant to the conversation. Nowadays, reading your Facebook newsfeed is important if you want to keep up to date on the happenings of your friends and want to talk about it.
If you have more than 100 friends it’s going to be impossible to keep up with all of your friends’ digital activities (what events they’ve RSVPed to, their latest tweets, what article they recently read, etc), that’s why the Facebook newsfeed algorithm reigns as king.
Relational Relevance Algorithm
Since there are thousands of stories being generated by our friends on a daily basis, we need some sort of filtering mechanism to determine which content is most relevant to us. That’s why Facebook has a relevance factor for each story. If my best friend breaks up with his girlfriend, this information is important to me. If 20 of my friends just read an article in the Wall Street Journal I should probably take a look.
While Facebook has not perfected this “relational relevance algorithm,” the theoretical value of a perfect or close to perfect algorithm is priceless. When I can view my newsfeed and immediately know what news is important to me, I no longer need to go surfing through RSS feeds, check out 10 different sites or anything else. All the news that is socially relevant is right there in front of me.
Everything is Nothing
Seeing absolutely all of my friends’ digital happenings from one site has some value but eventually it becomes overwhelming. That’s why all of the value comes from the algorithm which determines what is actually important to me. Knowing that my friend bookmarked a random site may not be that valuable if I’m not close friends with them. Even then it may not be of much value to me.
That’s why each of these sites are going to need to develop a filtering algorithm. The only sites that are well positioned to develop this type of algorithm currently are the social networks. Facebook is currently taking the lead as they were the original innovators that developed the newsfeed and have had a significant amount of time to perfect their algorithm. Do you think the other newsfeed competitors have a chance?